Dosidicus Giygas asks:

Can you recommend any good resources for learning about Aegean depictions of cephalopods?

That’s a… concerningly specific request

and this is coming from a guy whose thesis is on Roman window glass

So, uh… I mean, there’s nothing off the top of my head that isn’t ludicrously dry and technical; like, if you have JSTOR access or similar you could search for some of Penelope Mountjoy’s articles on the Late Minoan IB “Marine Style” but they’re, um… not exactly page-turners.  They probably won’t make a lot of sense without a fairly thorough grounding in Minoan archaeology, and honestly I’m not even sure they’ll tell you what you want to know, if you’re interested in, like, the accuracy of anatomical details.  Is the Marine Style what you mean?  Because that’s where my mind instantly goes on hearing “Aegean depictions of cephalopods,” but without context that phrasing is… kinda broad.  There’s a bunch of Attic black and red figure pots with octopuses(-pi/-podes) on them that you can find by searching the Beazley Archive database (type “octopus” into the “decoration description” field and hit “list” at the bottom of the page); I dunno if anyone’s ever written anything about them and at a glance it looks like a lot of them just have the octopus as a shield device or a generic ocean-themed ornament, but… I mean, they’re there if you want ‘em, I guess.

4 thoughts on “Dosidicus Giygas asks:

  1. Thanks, those might be a good start. I’m mainly interested in interpretations of what cephalopods symbolized for the Minoans (if they symbolized anything in particular and weren’t just an ancient aesthetic equivalent to succulents), since octopuses seem to be a pretty common recurring motif (the Marine Style is what I mean, yes, but I’m also not a student of archaeology, so I might be thinking in vaguer terms here).

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    1. Well, the Minoans aren’t really my bag, and symbolism is pretty tough to interpret in anything but the broadest strokes for cultures who don’t have surviving literature or at least living descendants with an ongoing oral tradition. Honestly, though, I think they just liked sea creatures? They live on an island, we know maritime trade is important to them, they may have some kind of naval empire, and people like to draw things that they see around them. I don’t think it’s more than that. There is a point to be made in that Minoan art is conspicuously more fond of scenes dominated by plants and animals in natural settings than Mycenaean art, which tends to show, e.g. animals being hunted by humans – the Minoans don’t show people using weapons a lot either. It *used* to be standard to try to draw some psychological point about the two cultures out of this; you know, Mycenaeans are warlike, Minoans are hippies, basically. I don’t think anyone working on Aegean Bronze Age archaeology today really believes that anymore, though; it’s just too reductive when we don’t have any guide to what the art meant *to them*.

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      1. That’s fair. I guess they were probably a common feature in the Minoan diet. On a tangential note, I find it interesting, telling even, that Aristotle interpreted the octopus’s curiosity as a sign of stupidity.

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